Saturday, January 28, 2012

New FTD Releases Confirmed

As is usually the case while waiting for new FTD releases to be announced, the rumour mill has been in full swing the last couple of weeks.

On January 12 someone wrote on the FECC forum that there would be "some very special news from the FTD people." After six days of discussions and guesses (ranging from the long awaited SUN project to an Elvis In Concert CD/DVD/Hardcover Book Box set project) Ernst denied this, saying that "an announcement will be made in early February - and it's just a regular announcement."

Two days ago, on January 26, the Elvis Information Network wrote that they had overheard that the new March FTDs could be 1) On Stage Album 2) 1975 soundboard concert - possibly Shreveport June 7 3) His Hand In Mine double-vinyl release. The post finished with the sentence that "These have yet to be confirmed by FTD."

Now, yesterday, ElvisMatters posted the news that the Elvis Express website could confirm that the rumoured 5" live album will be the concert from June 7 1975, Shreveport, Louisiana, and also that there was no confirmation yet of the other two titles.

And today, on January 28, ElvisMatters published an article titled "Official FTD news: March releases" where the one confirmed release (the Shreveport concert) turned out to be not so confirmed after all, as an Our Memories Of Elvis double CD had taken its place. (The other two rumoured releases turned out to be correct.)

I've written about this before, but FTD really should have their own website where the announcements could be made firsthand. That way, the rumour mill wouldn't have to swing so fast. Or, failing that, does like it says on the FTD releases News section on the official site of Elvis Presley: "Whenever a new release is ready to be announced, FTD provides information to EPE to post in the FTD News section here on Elvis.com and then provides information to its other distributors, fan sites, etc."

That was actually the case when the last announcements were made in October (Promised Land, Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas, Elvis Is Back (vinyl) and A Moment In Time (book). But when I took a look there today, there was no sign of the new FTD March releases.

But who am I to complain? As On Stage February 1970 is one of my favorite albums, I'm happy that I can soon cross it out from my list over future possible releases in FTD's Classic Album series. And Our Memories Of Elvis looks promising also. In a way I guess it's a logical move to release it, just as FTD did with the Too Much Monkey Business CD back in 2000, featuring the songs re-recorded for the Guitar Man LP from 1981. Maybe this means that the This Is Elvis double album will also see a release in the future, who knows?

Finally, here are the confirmed new FTD titles set for release on March 6:
  1. On Stage – February, 1970 Classic Album. A 2 CD 7" digipack with the regular 12-page booklet. As well as the Original Album (mastered by Vic Anesini) the album will include all of RCA’s multi-track recordings from three of Elvis’ shows.
  2. Our Memories Of Elvis a 2 CD 5" digipack version of the original albums, with an added bonus of the previously unreleased Volume 3 LP master tape plus six more cuts that series producer Joan Deary had prepared at the time. It comes with a 12-page booklet of relevant memorabilia and photos.
  3. His Hand In Mine vinyl 2-album set. Special Limited Edition 2-disc 180-gram vinyl set.
Elvis Matters also announces that "There will be a separate announcement of book titles" soon. Maybe a CD/book combo from Elvis show in Shreveport 1975?

PS: Wouldn't the unreleased Our Memories Of Elvis Volume 3 be the perfect candidate for a "what if" LP from FTD? That's the concept I wish FTD would use for their vinyl releases.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Hawaii Sixtyone

Earlier this week it was announced that the next CD/book release from the Memphis Recording Service (MRS) will be Elvis' benefit performance in Hawaii for the USS Arizona Memorial. Titled Such A Night In Pearl Harbor the press release promises a re-mastered CD where "The quality is of this concert is far superior than anything of this ever released before."

Also included on the CD is a 30 minute radio broadcast from Hawaii presented a week before Elvis’ arrival. It promoted the concert for the memorial fund, playing selected tracks from Elvis’ Christmas Album and His Hand in Mine, released at that time including words by Elvis Presley.

Now, the funny thing is, I learned of the existence of this broadcast only a few weeks ago. Visiting the excellent Elvis In Norway site I stumbled upon a bootleg I had forgot I had in my collection. It had been awarded to me aboard the bus used by the Danish fan club Elvis Unlimited during Elvis week 2005. I had a great time traveling with all those Danes and visiting Elvis places such as Memphis, Tupelo, Nashville and so on, but that's another story...

Now, this particular copy of the bootleg, titled Fever Pitch, was missing the backside of the cover so I really didn't knew what was on it (although I could make an educated guess as it featured a shot of Elvis from the benefit concert in Hawaii).

Unpacking all my stuff when I arrived back home in Sweden, I gave it a quick spin. But I skipped the second track after a couple of seconds when I heard it featured the song "House Of Sand." The rest of the CD included a couple of songs from the actual concert, an interview with Elvis made on the set of Blue Hawaii and rounded off with "Sand Castles." As I really didn't think the album offered anything new I put it away on a shelf and forgot all about it.

Anyway, reading about the bootleg on the Elvis In Norway site I noticed that track 2 was listed as "House of Sand" (one line only) followed by "Radio Broadcast." Digging out my copy of Fever Pitch I played track 2, and there it was, after 15 seconds of "House Of Sand," the radio broadcast promoting Elvis' benefit performance a week later. Turned out I'd skipped that track too fast while listening to the album seven years ago!

I found the broadcast interesting, featuring among others, a U.S. Navy admiral talking about the construction of the memorial and thanking Elvis Presley and his supporting troops in the show. After I played it, I made a mental note to write a post about it, suggesting that FTD release it together with the show in improved sound quality (after all, the audio restoration technique must have improved since 1980, when the show was released on the box set Elvis Aron Presley).

But the Memphis Recording Service (and apparently another label as well) beat me (and FTD) to it. Still, I hope FTD will go for the same concept, including the interview from the Blue Hawaii set as a bonus. In the interview, Elvis talks candidly to Hawaiian DJ Tom Moffet about the Arizona war memorial benefit show:

Tom Moffet: Where you happy with the turnout and the response in the show?

Elvis: Oh yeah, I sure was. And I was glad everybody was yelling and everything, it covered up my mistakes (laughter). Because I hadn't had any rehearsals, you know, and I'd been out of practice, hadn't been on stage since 1957. The band had forgotten the songs and I had forgotten the lyrics to most of the songs. In fact, a lot of times, I said the same lyrics over and over, used the same line.”

Thursday, January 19, 2012

FTD: What Now, What Next, Where To?

The last couple of days I've browsing my favorite Elvis sites regularly, looking for news about which new titles will be released from the Follow That Dream label (FTD).

Yesterday I noticed that Ernst Jorgensen had posted a comment related to an ongoing discussion taking place on the FECC forum that there would be "some very special news from the FTD people." Ernst denied this, saying that "an announcement will be made in early February - and it's just a regular announcement." So now I've stopped looking, bidding my time until next month.

That leaves room for a couple of more days of speculating and guessing, though. A year ago I wrote a post about which titles we could expect to see in the FTD Classic Album series, and here's what happened (I've crossed out the titles that were released during 2011):
  • Peace In The Valley EP (including all the binaural outtakes from 1957)
  • G.I. Blues
  • A What If Album featuring Nashville recordings from 1966-1968 (partially)
  • From Elvis In Memphis
  • Back In Memphis
  • He Touched Me
  • Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas
  • Promised Land
  • From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee
  • Moody Blue
  • Elvis In Concert
Now, taking into account some wise comments I got from Troy Y. (running The Mystery Train Elvis Blog) when I published the list, as well as some more speculation on my part, I present the following updated version:
  • Peace In The Valley EP (including all the binaural outtakes from 1957)
  • G.I. Blues Vol. 1
  • G.I. Blues Vol. 2
  • Flaming Star (one CD like Wild In The Country)
  • A What If Album featuring studio/movie recordings from 1968 and 1969
  • From Elvis In Memphis
  • Back In Memphis
  • On Stage - February 1970
  • Elvis As Recorded At Madison Square Garden (including the afternoon show)
  • Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite (including the rehearsal show as well as the post-concert songs)
  • From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee
  • Moody Blue
  • Elvis In Concert
This list actually includes more titles than the one I wrote a year ago, so if I'm anywhere near the truth there's still material for three or four years worth of releases (If FTD continues with their ordinary release schedule of four classic albums a year).

As for more live material, there's still a couple of professionally recorded shows from the 1969 and 1970 summer engagements in Las Vegas that haven't been released yet. And let's not forget the concerts recorded for the movie Elvis On Tour, many fans are waiting for those too, me included. More soundboards are without doubt also on their way.

Finally, I'd love to see an FTD box collecting all the material from The 68' Comeback Special (after all, I don't see how a classic album treatment in the 2 CD format is possible for that one). Oh, I almost forgot, there's also the SUN project...

Sunday, January 15, 2012

My Own Elvis Australia Page

Troy Y. over at The Mystery Train Elvis Blog alerted me that I have my own Elvis Australia page now. Lately David Troedson at Elvis Australia has posted a couple of my FTD reviews on his fantastic site, and clicking on the link provided by Troy I was pleased to see that he has collected them under the headline "Elvis Presley Articles by Thomas Melin."
Check it out here.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Blood Harmony

I'm really looking forward to April 7, when The Original Elvis Tribute will be performing in Vara, Sweden. This show has been touring Europe for the last couple of years, but for the first time Mary and Ginger Holladay will be among the musicians. Today I recieved an e-mail from the producer Arjan Deelen, titled "Ginger Holladay recalls her first meeting with Elvis" that I'd like to share with you.
Even though it’s now 40 years ago that she first met Elvis, Ginger Holladay’s memories of that January 1969 meeting still remain vivid in her mind: “Yes, it was when we were recording "In The Ghetto". A crowd of men laughing and joking walked into the studio and then parted and there he was, in the center of them all. He came over and introduced himself to us (as if we didn't already know...he was such a gentleman) and shook each of our hands”.

At the time, Elvis was recording at American Sound Studios in Memphis. These sessions rejuvenated Elvis’ career as a relevant recording artist. And he fell in love with the ‘Holladay Sound’: the girls ended up working on virtually every studio album he did between 1969 and ’75 (16 original albums in all), and their voices were even dubbed onto some of the live recordings. “We had a sound that someone described as blood harmony, a sound that only comes if you are family”, says Ginger, “Elvis liked our sound, as did Felton Jarvis, his producer for RCA”.

Mary and Ginger Holladay will be coming to Europe for the first time this April as part of the ‘Original Elvis Tribute’ show. These shows will mark the first time that the original backing vocals of classics like “Suspicious Minds” and “In The Ghetto” can be heard live in concert in Europe. They will be doing shows in Finland, Norway, Sweden, Holland and Luxembourg. “Bobby Wood suggested us to Arjan Deelen who is creating the shows”, Ginger notes. “We’ve worked together with Bobby for many years, but this will be our first time working with the other guys, and we are looking forward to creating a great show with them. According to Bobby and Arjan, it will be great fun creating music with them all. These shows are going to be filled with the "heart of rock n roll" because we are thrilled to be able to bring you the music of Elvis Presley, who is the King of it!”.

‘The Original Elvis Tribute’, which also includes a.o. Duke Bardwell, Bobby Wood and Jerome ‘Stump’ Monroe, will be doing the following shows: Vara Konserthus, Sweden – April 7; Sibelius-talo, Lahti (FI) – April 10; Tampere-talo (FI) – April 11; Savoy Theater, Helsinki – April 12; Deichhall, Ettelbruck, Luxembourg – April 13; Elvis Cruise Stena Lines, Oslo (NO) – April 14/15; Het Paard, Den Haag (NL) – April 21; 013, Tilburg (NL) – April 22. For more info, please go to: www.elvisnews.dk

The Holladay Sisters just recorded a special promo for the tour opening show in Vara, and you can see it here: http://youtu.be/Oi6Bu7sxne4

Sounds like I'm in for a treat together with all the other fans who will attend the opening show. (According to Arjan Deelen on The Original Elvis Tribute Facebook group, a month after sales started, they have already sold half of the tickets).

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Making Of "I'll Be Home On Christmas Day"

The other day I read on the ElvisMatters site that they had sent Michael Jarrett (writer/composer of the song “I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day”) a copy of the recent FTD release Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas. A nice gesture, as this release includes no less than 16 outtakes of the two versions Elvis did of Jarrett’s song, six of them complete.

In a reply included in the same article Michael Jarrett expresses his thanks and says, among other things, that “I love how he works on each take making [it] his own song from his heart. He sang the melody just the way I recorded it on my original demo including those high notes on the last verse and all the bluesy nuances though out the song.”

My appetite whetted, I wanted to know more about how Michael Jarrett felt about Elvis recording his song (and two times at that!). So I decided to dig a bit deeper. Writing down a couple of questions, I e-mailed them to Michael Jarrett, receiving the following answer (on Elvis birthday, no less) that I’d like to share with you:

Elvis Today: What was your overall reaction after listening to all the outtakes of "I'll Be Home On Christmas Day?"

Michael Jarrett: I think for any songwriter that has the good fortune to have Elvis record their songs and; to be able some 40 years later to hear outtakes from the sessions is truly amazing. Hearing the process -the carving out- of my song is the fun part for me especially; after all, it's Elvis!

Elvis Today: As a musician yourself, what do you think of Elvis approach to the song?

Michael Jarrett: I believe he approached my song in his own special way, that is to say; he related to what the lyrics were saying and the overall sentiment the song conveyed to him during this time of his life. I believe he chose the song to record because it had personal meaning to him.

Elvis Today: Before one of the takes, you can almost hear him cross out a couple of verses on his lyrics sheet as he mutters, "one, two, three ... let's see ..." How do you feel about him leaving out the verse about your children?

Michael Jarrett: I had to laugh when Elvis said there were 8 verses, he was only joking of course. Actually, there were only 4, and when he recorded the one about my children I was completely surprised. I didn't know that he'd recorded this verse all these years until I heard the Alt. #9 version a couple of years ago.

I'm happy the decision was made to leave out the verse about my children in the final version for two reasons: First being that; the song plays much better with just three verses with changing keys on the last verse to give the song lift and the build up to the ending with tagging the last part of the last verse; it just feels better to the listener I think. Secondly, Little John, Michele, Christine and Kelly weren't his children and leaving that verse out made the song more [his] song on a personal level ..

Elvis Today: On the remake of "I'll Be Home On Christmas Day," recorded one month later, Elvis wanted to give the song a more solid and heavy beat. How do you like the result?

Michael Jarrett: I truly love both versions for different reasons. On that Christmas eve in 1969 when I wrote the song, I wrote it on guitar; which was more like Elvis' first version he recorded.

When I was recording the demos at Gold Star recording studio in L.A.; to give to Joe Esposito, I played "I'm Leavin" on guitar and decided to try "I'll Be Home On Christmas Day" on the piano. Strangely enough, I'd never played it on the keyboard before that day and sat down to give it a shot and played it through one time in a slow bluesy shuffle.

After I'd finished, the engineer in the control room said, "come in and listen to this" .. "listen to what", I said? Unknown to me, the engineer had recorded my run through of the Christmas song without me knowing it .. [an old trick many engineers use to get the best out of a player; when they don't know they're being recorded]. After listening to the play back we felt it was a good take 'straight from the heart'. So off it went, along with "I'm Leavin" to Joe Esposito and on to Elvis.

I think they liked the original bluesy shuffle .. just a guess on my part since they went back a month later and rerecorded it in that style. I do love both versions as they are heart felt. If I had to pick between the two, I would chose the first version because it's more "up close and personal".

Elvis Today: Finally, it must be a great experience to be able to listen to Elvis working with your song, after so many years. What do you think about the idea of releasing outtakes from Elvis recording sessions like this?

Michael Jarrett: This is an easy question and very simple to answer. For this songwriter, It's exciting beyond words to hear the King himself talking about and working up a song I'd written so long ago that is now part of Elvis' history ..

Thank you Elvis for letting us eavesdrop into your world in the making of this wonderful Album of Christmas songs ..

And thank you Thomas, for helping to keep Elvis' music and memory alive for future generations ..

My best to you and all the Elvis fans and Happy Birthday to The King!!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

One Boy, Two Little Girls

January 8 is always a day when I think a little extra of Elvis, and in my own humble way try to celebrate his birthday, maybe by watching one of my favorite movies or playing a record that has a special meaning to me. As he would have been 77 years today, for some reason I came to think of the Elvis In Concert album, recorded in 1977, so that will be my choice this time.

But today is also important to me for another reason. Twelve years ago I asked a pretty girl out on a date, and by chance that date took place on Saturday, January 8. I'm happy to report that the date went well, today that girl is my wife and we have a beautiful daughter.

In fact, the two of us always try to go to a restaurant on this particular day each year, and usually ends up joking about if it's Elvis or us we're celebrating. And all kidding aside, I'll be able to listen to Elvis In Concert together with my daughter during the day, and focus on my wife in the evening.

Happy birthday, Elvis! (And thank you, honey, for being the best wife there is!)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Elvis In Print

In the last post for 2011 I mentioned that the greatest Elvis moment for me that year was the release of my The Elvis Today Blog Book, in March. Therefore I was surprisingly pleased to see that the book got another mentioning on the Elvis Information Network on Christmas Day, no less. The text ended like this:
The bibliographic resource Elvis in Print: The Definitive Reference and Price Guide includes this synopsis about The Elvis Today Blog:
The first 271 blogs by the author on his blog site, www.elvistodayblog.com. As you expect from a “blog”, the topics covered are eclectic. Melin ponders issues as diverse as Elvis in the shop window and archival media reports to new bootleg releases, the need for an FTD (Follow That Dream) website and the album that never was. All in all it makes for interesting reading. Includes listing of major Elvis websites and other Elvis related blog sites.
Reading this made my day. Not only was my blog book mentioned in a reference and price guide, it also received praise. At the same time I wanted to know more about Elvis In Print, so I did a search on google and got a hit that took me back to the Elvis Information Network, where it was mentioned among other general price guides:
Elvis In Print: The Definitive Reference & Price Guide, Nigel Patterson - scheduled book release listing details and values for more than 3,000 book and magazines about Elvis published around the world.
Reading this, I e-mailed Nigel Patterson whom I recognized as one of the guys running the Elvis Information Network site, and asked him if he could share some more information about his upcoming book.

He kindly replied that Elvis In Print is still in draft form and probably will be for some time. The manuscript currently exceeds 500 pages (without visuals), with more than 3,000 book and magazine listings (75% are books) from more than 20 countries. He also wrote that he expects the number of releases to spike over the next few years as more writers take advantage of the economical self-publish options for both physical and e-books. Finally, he told me that he expects Elvis In Print to be around 600 pages when it's published, with 3,500-4,000 listings.

I for one am looking forward to the release of Elvis In Print. After all, it's not everyday your work is mentioned together with renowned Elvis writers such as Bill Burk, Ernst Jorgensen, Peter Guralnick and Ger Rijff.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Blue Hawaii On New Year's Eve

I celebrated New Year's Eve peacefully with my family, including my five year old niece. As she arrived, she told me she would like to watch an Elvis movie, and of course, I was happy to oblige. Paradise, Hawaiian Style being her firm favorite, we this time went for Blue Hawaii, me telling her that "Elvis plays an ukulele, just like the one you received for Christmas."

I was a little nervous she would find Blue Hawaii to be a bit boring and too serious (she didn't like Fun In Acapulco) but I didn't need to have worried. She enjoyed it from the start, pointing out that Elvis seemed to be a Casanova in this movie as well, first kissing a air hostess and then his girlfriend (Joan Blackman) waiting at the airport.

One scene she loved was when Elvis sang "No More" with some Hawaiian friends on the beach, another the one at the luau, where Elvis belted out a couple of numbers, such as "Ito Eats" and "Slicin' Sand." She also had a big laugh when Joan Blackman turned Elvis surfboard around so he fell into the water. Finally, I could tell she was impressed with the marriage ceremony at the end of the film and the clothes Elvis wore while singing "Hawaiian Wedding Song."

As we sat there and watched Blue Hawaii, I found myself enjoying it as well. The scenery was beautiful, the soundtrack very good and many of the co stars entertaining as well. Howard McNear, who played the boss of the tour company, was particularly funny, constantly forgetting that Elvis worked for him. And last, but not the least, Elvis seemed to be enjoying himself, looking relaxed and comfortable on screen.

So maybe my niece and I will catch another Elvis movie next New Year's Eve around. It sure makes me happy that she likes Elvis. At one time during the movie I had to go prepare some food, and she came rushing after me. "Can we continue to watch the movie and don't wait for you," she asked pleadingly. From a five year old, that's high praise for Elvis indeed.

Related posts:
Queenie Wahine's Papaya (Spetember 30, 2011)
Blue Hawaii - My Holiday Soundtrack (August 20, 2011)